Haiti bans Oxfam GB over sexual misconduct scandal

Haiti's government officially banned Oxfam Great Britain from operating in its country on Wednesday, following the se...

Posted: Jun 15, 2018 12:16 AM

Haiti's government officially banned Oxfam Great Britain from operating in its country on Wednesday, following the sex scandal that rocked the British charity earlier this year.

Oxfam's right to operate in Haiti had already been revoked in February following allegations that staff members, including the country director, hired prostitutes at Oxfam properties while working in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Oxfam responded to the decision in a statement on Wednesday, apologizing again to the Haitian government and its people.

"Oxfam is disappointed but understands the Haiti Government's decision to withdraw Oxfam Great Britain's permission to work in Haiti," the statement read. "The behavior of some former Oxfam staff working in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake was completely unacceptable."

The statement also noted that since stronger measures have since been implemented to prevent abuse, including a hotline and safeguarding team.

The allegations first emerged in 2011, prompting an internal investigation, but Oxfam didn't make the report public until this February. According to the report, four staff members were dismissed for "gross misconduct" and three others resigned after the investigation, including Haiti country director Roland van Hauwermeiren.

The report also described three staff members who "physically threatened and intimidated" a witness during the investigation, leading to accusations that Oxfam had deliberately covered up the scandal.

The report didn't address claims that van Hauwermeiren and his team had been previously reported for alleged sexual misconduct while working in the African nation of Chad, but no action was taken at the time.

Global outrage ensued. 7,000 people canceled their regular donations in just 10 days, Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring told British lawmakers in February.

Several ambassadors and donors pulled their support. Oxfam's deputy chief stepped down, and in May, Goldring followed suit.

"This is about abuse of power," Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of Oxfam International, told Parliament in February. "Whether they have given them some money from an Oxfam program or from their pocket as their salary, it's still abhorrent, and we are ashamed and upset about it, and we're going to root it out of our organization."

The staff members were deployed to Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake in 2010, which killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

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